Yesterday was a chance for recreational runners to compete against New Brunswick’s top university cross-country athletes in a 5K-trail race, organized by the UNB Varsity Reds cross-country team. The course was a hilly one with two laps through Odell Park in Fredericton, NB.
The idea of running up hills, even small ones, is quite intimidating so I arrived early so I could check out the course before registering. After walking up the first hill which entered the woods, I strolled down and sat on a bench in front of Odell Lodge and contemplated whether or not I belonged in such an event. My first race a month earlier was a flat course and I struggled to finish so how could I possibly complete such a course? I don’t mind finishing last but I didn’t want to start and not finish. Recently, I tried adding some hill training into my running program, but I experienced a lot of difficulty on hills and I wasn’t quite sure if I was ready for such a challenging course.
As I sat there, freezing in the cool morning air, I felt hungry, tired and discouraged. Then suddenly, I spotted two runners that I met at my first race. We chatted for a few minutes and I discussed my concern about the hills. They suggested that if I couldn’t run the hills I could walk on the hills. This was an easy solution. My spirits lifted and I registered for my second race.
With about a half hour until the start of the race we warmed up together and then walked to the starting area for race instructions. We all agreed to run our own race and meet again in the finish area.
At 10 o’clock we were off and running. I made it up the first hill and was well on my way when I glanced at my watch to check my pace, only to discover that I forgot to start my Garmin. I started it but only looked at it a couple of times during the race. There was no point – I needed to focus on the race and try not to get lost on the trail. There were no distance markers on the trail and I had no idea how far I ran until I was back to that long hill again. I had completed the first lap. I struggled up the hill this time, walking for a brief period, and was relieved to reach the downhill section of the race. I recovered slightly and continued on my journey. I crossed the finish line in 33:49, more than 3 minutes faster than my first race!
Actually, I can’t believe that I finished in less than 34 minutes. My pre-race goal was to improve on my first race, but after observing the course I felt this would be impossible and almost didn’t enter the race. Thank goodness, I entered. If I hadn’t I would probably feel like a complete loser today instead of a winner!